Save Street Children Uganda is taking action to help vulnerable children who live on the streets and suffer from exploitation and a poor quality of life that often lead to sexual and mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation. In fact, in Kampala, 97% of the street children we work with exhibit severe psychological symptoms such as self-stigma, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts.
Facts: Trauma and Abuse
One of the key issues these children face is trauma and abuse. Prior to migrating to the streets, they experience high rates of abuse, with family abuse being a critical catalyst for their movement away from home. Once on the streets, they encounter various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Our fact-finding study in Kampala revealed that 97% of street children and youth had experienced some form of violence or abuse. Shockingly, among girls engaged in street vending, 79% had been sexually abused, with 35% having experienced penetrative sexual intercourse. Sexual abuse is considered the most frightening threat of street life by these children.
Hopelessness, Self-harm and Suicide
Hopelessness, self-harm, and suicide are also prevalent among street children living alone and at risk. Our fact-finding efforts found high levels of hopelessness, social alienation, and depression among these children. The sense of hopelessness stems from their insecure life, abuse, and cultural and social exclusion, which they face on a daily basis. Those who have been on the streets for a long time and have limited ties with family members and other street children are more likely to experience hopelessness and low self-esteem. Additionally, being physically abused or learning about their peers’ experiences of abuse contributes to their sense of hopelessness.
What are we doing to help?
To address these challenges, Save Street Children Uganda has developed a resilience-focused mental health model for street children. We recognize that the mental health conditions of these children in major cities across Uganda are dismal, necessitating immediate intervention. Building mental health interventions within a resilience framework has proven to be a promising approach in our work with street children. In the absence of government policies and services, it is imperative that we, as an organization working with street populations, promote mental health by developing programs that address both individual and group needs.
Through our programs, we aim to provide support and intervention to help street children heal from their traumatic experiences, build resilience, and empower them to create a better future for themselves. We offer counseling and support services to address the trauma and abuse they have endured. Additionally, we focus on creating a sense of belonging and support through group activities, mentorship programs, and community engagement.
Our goal is to make a significant impact on the mental health and overall well-being of street children in Uganda. By working within a resilience framework, we strive to provide the necessary support and resources to help these children overcome their challenges and thrive in life.